Monday, June 3, 2013
Titanic Troubles, Part 1: Marvel Feature 12
Marvel Feature #12 (November 1973)
"Bite of the Blood Brothers!"
Writer: Mike Friedrich
Pencils: Jim Starlin
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Karen: It's June, things are heating up (especially where I am), and all this month we're going to be tackling that terrible Titan, Thanos! Now, we have checked him out before around these parts, and if you want to get the full chronological effect, you should stop reading now, and go back to this review of Iron Man #55, which was the big guy's first appearance. Then come right back here for some more fun. You could also check out our review of Marvel Feature #11 if you want to know why the Thing is wandering around the desert of what seems to be either New Mexico or Arizona. For now, it's enough to say that the Thing is a long way from home, or anybody's home, for that matter. Ben is lamenting his luck at not being able to leap across the desert like the Hulk when who should come flying by but Iron Man -- but the Golden Avenger buzzes right past him, not even slowing down! This really riles Ben.
Doug: Jim Starlin does a nice job, facing the obstacle that all artists face when drawing Iron Man's faceplate -- how to show emotion in ol' Shellhead. Choosing a downturned vent for the mouth helps, and varying the camera angles assists in playing up angst, wonder, and determination. It's a pretty good strategy. And yeah -- Ben was pretty miffed, as well he should have been!
Karen: Time to check in with the other half of this team-up, Iron Man. Turns out he's following up on his encounter with Thanos in the previously-mentioned Iron Man #55, and events that occurred in Captain Marvel #28, when Thanos acquired the Cosmic Cube. He's decided to check up on Thanos' old base, where he and Drax the Destroyer had fought the Titan's henchmen, the Blood Brothers. While he pokes around, he's unaware that the Blood Brothers are still there and are watching him and awaiting orders from Thanos. Meanwhile, the Thing is headed over a dune and just about ready to give Shellhead a piece of his mind.
Doug: I never know what to make of the Blood Brothers. First off, they could be brothers-from-another-mother in regard to Mr. Grimm -- it's like the same head, different color! And then they dress alike, which is just too weird. And lastly, it just seems that no matter where they turn up, they're just eventually going to get a beatdown from whomever they're facing that month. Upon further review, I did not realize that part of their strength is derived from their physical proximity to each other. That's an interesting twist, I suppose.
Karen: Although I am a huge fan of Starlin's art, I've always thought that he's had some trouble drawing the Thing -- as do many artists. But here, teamed with Joe Sinnott, who probably knows the Thing as well as any artist, he looks great. I do think that the art has lost some of the Starlin style but it is still pretty solid.
Doug: I've been waiting to ask, since seeing the splash page -- do you prefer your vision of Ben Grimm with small rocks or large? Here Starlin uses the small-rock motif, which I tend to think makes Ben look a little less powerful -- even shorter in height. I'm using the massive Avengers vs. Thanos tpb (highly recommended!) as my resource, and your point about Joe Sinnott is a strong argument. While we get to see Starlin under the influence of several inkers in that tome, there don't seem to be any who "hide" Starlin as Sinnott does. But I still like Joe, don't get me wrong!
Karen: I guess I had not given small rocks vs. large much thought, but for me it's more a sense of uniformity: does Ben's hide look 'right'? Some artists just can't seem to get it to look like all the stones/scales belong together. Here, they do. From his throne on Titan, Thanos gives the word: kill Iron Man! The Blood Brothers, who resemble lumpy gorillas, begin stalking Iron Man as he walks through the darkened base. The two aliens ambush him from above, nearly pinning him to the ground, but Shellhead manages to get free and blast them with his repulsors. However it only momentarily stuns them. These two really give Iron Man a hard time -- it's a reminder that he wasn't always a powerhouse like he is now. He tries to rocket off, to get some "Avengers reinforcements" when he runs right into Ben, sending him flying and knocking both of them out. The Blood Brothers get a good hoot out of this. Ben starts to recover, but one of the Blood Brothers viciously punches him in the back of the head and puts him down for the count. We view the scene from within the Cosmic Cube, as Thanos projects his voice and tells his minions they have done well. They are in awe of his godlike power. We pull back to see Thanos holding the Cube, with his brother Eros and father Mentor held captive behind him. Thanos then orders the deaths of Iron Man and the Thing.
Doug: Your remark about IM not always being a powerhouse actually touches on some conversations we've had here in our comments over the past few weeks, and that's the ridiculous power levels of heroes these days. I like this version of Iron Man, with the classic armor that always seems to run out of energy at the most inopportune time. Sure, it's a built-in plot device, but it makes for some creative solutions. You know, Thanos doesn't really do anything in this story, but then those sorts of villains are the most dangerous -- "I don't need to sully my hands with the likes of you." It's pretty obvious that he's of the caliber of a Dr. Doom or some similar megalomaniacal antagonist.
Karen: The Blood Brothers advance on Ben and Iron Man, who are both beginning to recover consciousness. Shockingly, in a three-panel progression, one blood brother slowly opens his mouth as he looms over Ben, and we see sharp fangs bared! It appears there is a reason they are called "blood" brothers! The villain clamps down on Ben's shoulder (he doesn't really have a neck!) and Ben's eyes go wide! Ben is appalled -"Ya dirty vampires!" - and then it's clobberin' time! He pounds his attacker, and then pulls one of Doug's favorite (!) stunts -- he pulls up the stone floor like a rug! But the two brothers soon combine their attack and Ben is in trouble.
Doug: Ah, yes -- I believe Mr. Bill Foster was the recipient of my last "that's just a stupid idea" award. But it always does make a cool visual -- if totally improbable. I thought Starlin and Sinnott just did a great job of portraying Ben's attitude throughout the story. He started off mad out of his mind, stayed that way through the story, and we just always know it! If you look, his mouth is always drawn open, but his eyes and eyebrow are used to convey the varying degrees of his disgust with the whole situation. I was a little surprised by the vampire maneuver, because if I previously knew that about these two goons I had forgotten it.
Karen: Luckily, either due to the solar rays or his own inner strength, Shellhead gets his act together and charges into the two aliens, bowling them over. The fight gets so furious, they bring down part of the mountain. This is to the heroes' advantage. Even so, it takes some teamwork between the two to defeat the brawny Blood Brothers. Seeing his thugs beaten, Thanos uses the power of the Cube to teleport them away -or did he disintegrate them for their failure? Ben and Shellhead wonder what the brothers' fate is. Unfortunately for Ben, the fight took up most of Iron Man's power, and Ben is too big for him to carry back. So our hero ends this tale the same way he began it: hoofing it through the desert!
Doug: The ending battle is well done, with both heroes being on equal footing in the butt-kicking department. I'm not sure what I thought about Ben suggesting the two of them combine their strength by having Iron Man basically whip up a fastball special (well, as much as he could with a 500 lb. anthropomorphic weight) -- it certainly didn't play like some of the combined efforts we've seen from the X-Men, but then those were generally energy-based heroes strutting their stuff. In the end, it doesn't matter -- the baddies are defeated and Thanos is thwarted (although you'd think a guy with a Cosmic Cube would just wish his nemeses away and be done with it). And as to Ben's fate -- well, he is a loveable loser at times, isn't he?
Karen: This was a fun, light story, obviously only tangentially connected to the main Thanos-Cosmic Cube saga, but worth giving a look. As Doug said earlier, it's interesting to see how Starlin looks with a variety of inkers. We've discussed it before, Sinnott tends to be somewhat overpowering and although I can still see Starlin in there, it's also unmistakably Sinnott. Once we move on to the Captain Marvel issues in our story we'll see two other inkers on Starlin, Dan Green and Klaus Janson, and those will be very different looks.
Karen: Before our next review in this series, which will be Captain Marvel #32, you might want to check out this review I did of Captain Marvel #31, way back in 2009. It's brief, but should get you caught up.